Firstbathrooms Showers History
Showers are taken for granted in our modern culture – we simply expect there to be one in our bathrooms, whether as a standing shower or an attachment over the bath. But the shower hasn’t always been this popular, as this brief history shows.
Showers in History: The Waterfall
In many warm countries like New Zealand and Hawaii, ancient tribal people would bathe in waterfalls in the belief that the falling water would help rub the bather clean. The idea soon caught on, and even those who didn’t live near a waterfall would tip a bucket of water over themselves to rinse soap suds away.
Showers in History: Ancient Egypt
Excavators of the ancient Egyptian city Akhenaten, which dates back to 1350 B.C., found the remains of a small bathroom. From the design of the basin, it is believed to have been a simple form of shower that was probably operated by servants pouring vases of water onto the bather.
Showers in History: Babylon
King Nebuchandnezzar (605 to 562 B.C.) made the most of Babylon’s series of aqueducts by bathing in a shower room where slaves poured water over him as he washed with soap made of ashes and animal fat.
Showers in History: Ancient Greece
Citizens in Ancient Greece took outdoor showers by standing under a stream of water flowing from the spouts found on the sides of large fountains in the cities.
Showers in History: The Downfall of Hygiene
Unfortunately bathing lost its popularity in the 15th Century, when it was believed to be linked with vanity. Queen Isabella of Spain boasted that she had taken only two showers in her lifetime, and early Christians avoided washing to be more holy. St. Francis of Assisi even listed dirtiness of one of the signs of a holy person, and St. Agnes died at 13 without ever having taken a bath.
Showers in History: Back in Vogue
Cleanliness was back in fashion in the 16th Century, but only after a third of Europe had fallen foul of plague. Bathing rooms were added to Windsor Castle, where Queen Elizabeth took a bath once a month.
Showers in History: The First Patent
Showers as we know them today came into use in the late 18th Century. The first patent was granted in 1767 to William Feetham. The earliest models had a hand pump, and soon gained popularity for their modest use of water. They were also smaller and cheaper to install than bath tubs, and servants had less waste water to carry away.
Showers in History: The English Regency
Showers soon became commonplace when doctors started to prescribe them for health, and the first designer shower was born. The English Regency Shower was a frame made of metal painted to look like bamboo. At the base was a drain, and over the bather’s head as a tank. A hand pump pushed the water from the basin into the tank and down over the bather.
Showers in History: The Modern Shower
After this shower renaissance, showers became thought of as strictly utilitarian devices and the fancy designs that had rapidly developed disappeared. It wasn’t until the 1980s that manufacturers responded to the desire for more versatile showers, and now we can even buy showers with multiple-jets, coloured water and extra large droplets. A far cry from a bucket of water over the head!